16 So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Can you imagine the scene? A Roman executioner lays a crossbeam behind Jesus as two soldiers thrust Christ to the ground quickly penning each arm against the splintered beam by placing their knees on the inside of his elbows. With the blood-drenched crown of thorns pressing against His torn scalp, the executioner probes Jesus’ wrist to find the little hollow spot – and once found, he presses a square-cut iron nail to each wrist. Then, with hammer raised, pounds the nail-heads with such force it rips through flesh nailing the Christ to the beam. Once set, the soldiers work in unison by grabbing each side of the beam to lift this man heavenward until His feet are just off the ground – immediately causing His body to writhe in even greater pain as gravity began to inflict its torment. Then, once the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner kneels before the cross as the other two soldiers hurry to help with each one taking hold of a leg at the calf. The ritual was to nail the right foot over the left. Now this was likely the most difficult part of the work – for if the feet were pulled too far downward, then the prisoner would die too quickly. But not to fear, for over time, the Romans had learned to push the feet upward on the cross, so the condemned man could lean on the nails and stretch himself upward to breathe – thus procrastinating his torture and prolonging his life.

Chuck Swindoll describes the likely torment.

Excruciating pain accompanied every upward push for breath and every downward release from fatigue. Each movement cut deeper into bone and tendons and raw muscle. Fever inevitably set in, inflaming the wounds and creating an insatiable thirst. Waves of hallucinations drifted the victim in and out of consciousness. And in time, flies and other insects found their way to the open wounds. At this point, Jesus knew He had accomplished everything the Father had sent Him to do. To fulfill one last Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

Simply stated – the cross is none other than the most sinister and painful way to save the world.  And yet it was God’s way to atone for sin. God’s holiness and justice made the cross an absolute necessity for the forgiveness of sin. Each and every event of the crucifixion was required so that Jesus might be unmistakably identified as the promised Messiah and the single solution to the problem of sin. In fact, no fewer than (20) Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled within the 24 hours leading up to Jesus’ death – many of which coincide with Psalm 22.

These last three words Jesus spoke that glorious day are the heart of the good news. Matthew and Mark testify that Jesus proclaimed them not as a word of defeat but as a shout of victory – It is FINISHED! Jesus exclaimed a cry of victory in the hour of seeming defeat. Personally, I imagine Jesus words reverberated much like Mel Gibson’s words in Braveheart – when at death’s door, William Wallace cried out “FREEDOM!” for in His death, Jesus had completed in full all the Father had given to Him. He left nothing undone – leading us to freedom from sin into an eternal and earthly relationship with God.

The phrase – it is finished(tetelestai) means that it has been and will forever be accomplished. It signifies the absolute completion of the work of Christ to make full atonement for the redemption of the creation – a declaration of victory. The word denotes the intentional carrying out of an assigned task, calling, or Divine obligation. Jesus knew His hour was completed and the consequences of His work would be enduring because the debt of sin was now PAID IN FULL!

Max Lucado expressed this well.

The history-long plan of redeeming man was finished. The message of God to man was finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished. The task of selecting and training ambassadors was finished. The job was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over – paid in full.

So what does it mean that Jesus paid it all and that it is finished? First, it means that the mission was fulfilled and sin was atoned.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purificationfor sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

It is Finished

It is Finished

Jesus provided the purification for sin. Sin was atoned. Our ransom was paid in full. And now forgiveness is available to all who will believe in the Son. Read again the last part of this passage — After he had provided purificationfor sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. The Greek aorist tense indicates that Jesus accomplished purification for sins once and for all. But Jesus death did not just make it possible, but effectual.

What does effectual mean? It means that on the Cross, while Jesus died to set all men free from sin and redeem the entire fallen creation to Himself – he only secured the forgiveness of sins for all who actually believe and seek His forgiveness. Thus, while forgiveness is available to all, it will only be experienced by those who turn from their sins to Christ by grace through faith. Purification is for the repentant. For catharsis to take place our stain of sin has to be washed by His blood. This requires His work on the cross to be met with our faith in His grace.

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleansesus from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Jesus paid it all – and all to Him I owe.  Sin has left a crimson stain – He washed it white as snow.

This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 Jn. 4:9-10

Second, His death and victory of sin satisfied the justice of the Law as God’s wrath was appeased.

Don not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

The issue of the Law has always been difficult for people to understand. Whether it is by nature we think we have to meet a certain standard to earn God’s favor or maybe we think the way into God’s heart is by keeping the rules – the Law has long vexed the heart of man. Yet the intent of the Law was never to save but to redirect every person to the redemptive grace of God found in Christ.  It was to establish a standard to reveal to all people they were sinners in need of a Savior.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:16-21

Thus Jesus did not come to get rid of the Law but to complete where the Law fell short.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26

The Law condemned us all exposing us for who we really are – sinners in need of God’s amazing grace. But through the finished work of Christ on the Cross – to those who believe and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins – God’s wrath has been appeased and the Law of sin and death has been satisfied through His atoning death.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, b/c through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do b/c it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

Finally, through Christ finishing the atonement and satisfying God’s wrath, the enemy was defeated and Jesus delivered the deathblow to Satan.

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

From the very beginning, since the Fall, God promised Satan of his defeat.  And at the Cross, Jesus delivered on that promise. And the result is not only that Satan is defeated in the future, but that we too now have the power to overcome the wiles of the devil.  

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:7-8

So as you enter into this resurrection weekend, do so in the full knowledge that IT IS FINISHED! And let us never forget that it is by His stripes alone that we are healed.  For we trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. Why? It is because the only explanation for God’s forgiveness and for the unfathomable depth of His forgetting of our sins is the death of Jesus. Our repentance is merely the outcome of our personal realization of the atonement which He has worked out for us. Thus, it does not matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Christ and by no other way – not because Jesus pleads for us, but because He died for us. Therefore, His grace is not earned, but accepted (by grace through faith). And as a result, all the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the Cross is of no avail; it is battering at a door other than the one that Jesus has opened. So know this truth. God does not pretend that we are all right when we are all wrong. His single solution to the problem of our sin is the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross as our propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy. So let us never forget that the greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30).

These three words are the final word in the redemption of humankind. 


Tough Decisions Ahead

So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.  Luke 23:24-27

Tough Decisions

Tough Decisions

 “And he surrendered Jesus to their will.”  Have you ever wondered what Pilate would do if he were to get a do-over — a mulligan? Understanding the context of Jesus being falsely accused, I find Pilate’s words to be quite haunting.  Yet much like Pilate, there will be times when we will be faced with situations where we will have to make a tough decision to follow Christ or give Him up. From a human perspective, Pilate was in a no win situation – if he stood with Jesus, it would likely bring devastating personal consequences; yet if he stood against Christ, he would have to live with the guilt and consequences of falsely condemning an innocent man. History reports that he wilted under the pressure to comply and chose the road most traveled instead of the road least traveled.  He chose what was easy and convenient instead of choosing to stand with and for Christ.

When we are faced with a similar spiritual decision of followship, what do we tend to choose? In choosing to obey God, we can be certain it is going to be costly to someone. But what exactly is the real price of followship? Oswald Chambers reminds us, “If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans will be upset.”  The simple truth is that following Christ is costly, but not following Christ is even more costly.

In following Christ, we will all have encounters where we will have to make a choice regarding what we are going to do with Jesus. Sometimes the challenge is going to come from without, while more often than not, the greatest challenge is going to come from within in the face of temptation and sin.  Understanding this reality, we must be vigilant in our faith knowing that our human inclination all too often is to dictate to God what the results should be – and what would be acceptable to our will. Maybe this is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer once offered a penetrating statement regarding this challenge. He wrote, “When a man encounters Jesus he must do one of two things:  Either he must die, or he must put Christ to death.”   Either we will die to our will and embrace His will, or we will embrace of will and put Christ to death.  Faith in Christ is a precious gift we must never surrender to the will of others no matter how much our faith decisions might affect the lives of people around us.

When we choose to follow Christ, while it will be a joy for us, our choice to follow will impact the lives around us.  It will affect our spouses and children, our friends and colleagues, and even perfect strangers whose paths we cross. Why? Because when a person abandons their life to Christ, they no longer live according to an agenda of convenience or popular opinion, they live for a Person and cause greater than themselves.  As such, we carry around in us the life and ministry of Christ which causes other people to cross paths with Jesus.  And even while we are not Christ ourselves, the Spirit of God in us, living through us, supernaturally interrupts and disturbs the lives of others around us.  It cannot be helped if we all living holy abandoned to the Savior. 


Seeing God

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were Seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the Seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:1-8

Seeing God

Seeing God

Have you ever seen God?  Let me ask a different question.  Have you ever seen the wind?  Obviously we cannot see the invisible, but we can see the effects of the invisible when it blows through.  For Isaiah, his life was forever changed when the holy, glory of God filled the Temple.  His life was shaken to the foundations because of his close encounter with God.

Sometimes I’m afraid the modern churchgoer has seemingly lost their wonder and hunger for God.  It appears as if we have become afraid of the possibility of seeing God because He might ask us to give up something we hold dear or entertain an activity that might pull us out of our comfort zone.  Unfortunately, I hear too many stories of professing Christians exchanging the values of God for the values of culture — and we are all susceptible.  Sadly, I think we are more desperate for the American dream than we are for God’s will and commission. For far too many, we have seemingly lost our way in the hope that God will bless us in the midst of our consumption so long as we tip our hats, put in our few token hours of service, and chip in a few bucks when the plate is passed. But God is looking for so much more.  He is looking for a life that is fully surrendered to Him alone.

I would submit that too many churches and far too many Christians have lost the wonder of God.  We are not desperate for Him. In our fear of what might be required of us, we have settled for the convenient and the comfortable and have attempted to redefine “following Christ” by redefining what it means to be blessed.  We have even designed and attended churches that afford us anonymity with little to no accountability so that we can live as we desire and satisfy our religious notion without ever surrendering our hearts to the Father. Yet we can never forget that faith in Christ is not based in consumerism but in abandoned surrender to the Creator. Jesus did not lay down His life for our religious entertainment but for spiritual well-being. So thank goodness God has not acquiesced to our neo-Pharisee-ism.  And neither has He dumbed-down the Gospel nor the expectations He has for His people.  Instead, He still moves to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we might discover that Jesus is all we need.

So let’s make our prayer to see God for who He is as holy, holy, holy.  Let’s ask Him to help us see ourselves for who we are in light of who He is so that we might just rediscover what it means to be desperate for Him.


Great God

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him;     righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.  The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.  All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols—worship him, all you gods!  Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, Lord.  For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.  Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.  Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.  Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.  Psalm 97:1-12

Great God

Great God

How great is God?  There is none like Him.  He is the Lord and King. He is Savior. He is before all and over all. There is none like Him.

Sadly though, rather than recognizing God for who He is and submitting our lives by willingly coming under the shadow of His wings, we often seek flight from the sovereign hand of the Almighty.  Rather than allowing Him to be God, we naturally seek to displace Him by making someone or something else god.  Rather than seeking His presence, we too often seek to be our own deity.  Sadly, we prostitute our internal heart throne to the highest bidder instead of entering into His presence.

In re-reading this passage, the 9th verse grabs my attention:

 For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Do I really believe He is exalted above all things?  Do I trust that nothing can exceed His rule and reign?  Am I confident no situation or circumstance can escape His ability?  Do I believe He is the One and only sovereign God who wants to be present in my life?  If so, then I have no reason not to trust Him with all of my heart.  Instead, I should seek to give Him His rightful place on the throne of my life, to follow His lead, and to realize that He will be faithful to direct each and every step of my life as He has promised (see Proverbs 3:5-6).  Oswald Chambers wrote, “If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet – getting rid of all the excessive informality with which we approach God – it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence.

Let’s give Him His rightful place on the throne of our hearts.